When we come to discuss particular points of social etiquette, it’s important to look at the big, bigger, and biggest picture. Most of the rules regarding manners were established hundreds of years ago and have been honored and acknowledged for generations by our own ancestors and all their aunts and uncles. I dare say that your great-grandma was telling your grandfather at the table not to chew with his mouth open, to put his napkin on his lap, and not to talk with his mouth full. Let’s hear it for good manners! But manners were made for man, not man for the manners.
A bunch of these older traditions and social expectations have morphed and evolved into their present forms, and for good reason. I can remember reading through a old book on etiquette and breathing a sigh of relief that we have moved on from some of those out-dated customs. But we still have many cultural expectations, especially regarding weddings and showers, funerals and anniversaries, graduations and birthdays. Sometimes necessity dictates that we mess with some of the standards of accepted social etiquette.
For example, our congregation is large, and we have lots of growing families. Some years ago we moved away from having the traditional baby and wedding showers because we were faced with a choice: either we would have to exclude most of the women in the congregation from the guest list, or we would have to restructure the shower format. We opted for the latter. And with the growing number of showers, if we wanted to enable the women to attend, we would have to make them shorter events. So we began having open-house showers, and we used the church email to send out the invitations. You have to realize that a normal shower around here will have thirty or more ladies attend. We can’t exactly plan a sit-down luncheon for that many ladies, and with a shower or two every other week or two, most women would not be able to afford the time to attend so many social events. But we wanted to keep up the church-wide celebrations, so we made a change for what we considered to be good reasons. No one had their feathers ruffled that I know of. In fact, there was a big sigh of relief on all fronts! And they are lovely events, with beautiful spreads of food and piles of gifts. And most of the recipients still send out thank-you notes (not because it is a rule….simply a lovely custom).
Now of course, we do not expect other women in other communities to adopt our method of shower-giving unless it would be helpful to them. We are not trying to change the world; we are merely trying to keep some sanity in our own shower-giving. Is our method of shower-giving an innovation? Yes. Is it sin? No. Might someone wonder what in the world we are doing? Yes.
They may think we are stepping high, wide, and handsome. They may be surprised that we don’t send out stamped invitations, play shower games, and sit in a circle watching the guest of honor open her gifts. Who do we think we are anyway? And it would be easy for us to respond that we are not bound to give showers the way our ancestors did just because. But I don’t think that’s a good answer. We ought to have a good reason if we are going to go messing around with the traditions of our mothers and grandmothers and great-grandmothers before us. In this case, I think we did have good reasons, and so we messed.
So let’s bring this around to our current conversation about who should give the shower. If moms and sisters start giving showers for their daughters and sisters, then they ought to have a good reason for doing so. (If women start throwing themselves showers, they had better have a good reason as well!) I’m not sure what that reason might be, but there may be a good one. And though I might flinch if I heard a mother was throwing a shower for her daughter, it most emphatically would not be because I was offended. Rather, I might flinch because I would be worried about the hostess. Oh dear. Does she realize that it might look/seem weird to some people? Does she know this is a bit of a faux pas? Historically taboo for the last hundred years? But I would happily go to the shower. No problem.
Finally, I have to acknowledge to you all (in case you didn’t know) that I am well into my fifties, and like it or not, age makes a difference. My mom taught me this stuff, and it is in my bones. Many of you readers are much younger than I am, and you’ve never heard of such a thing. Not only do generations make a difference, but where you grew up makes a difference. In fact, it makes a very big difference. According to Bekah, in England a baby shower is simply not done. Here in the US we shower like crazy. So there you go. That’s where I’m coming from.